We live in an era where technology is literally everywhere, and while we all have to use screens in some capacity, it seems that some kids are strongly pulled to them more than others. In spite of us having firm rules on screen usage (30 minutes of earned time a day, based upon completion of household chores prior to being able to play), our 6-year old talks about video games non stop. He’s involved in soccer and plays outside every day after school - and he’s doing just fine developmentally / academically, but he is totally fixated on the plots and characters of Mario Bros., etc. He asks multiple times a day if he can play... (even when he has already used his daily allotment), and while I’m sure that begging should be a trigger for not letting him play the next day, he’s wearing me down and I need that 30 minutes of peace and quiet! Do I engage in conversation with him and let him talk incessantly about these games, or do I squelch the conversation? What can you suggest to us as we seek to raise a balanced child in a tech-saturated world?
Thanks for this question! Raising balanced children in a tech-saturated world seems to be one of the most confounding questions of parents today. First of all, we love that you’re keeping screen usage to 30 minutes per day that is EARNED. Way to go! But, yes, we see many parents of kids who, even when their kids aren’t playing, seem to be fixated on the games they wish they were playing. And, to take away the games the next day just because they kept asking would mean that particular child wouldn’t get to play for weeks at a time.
We’d like to add another thought to your already well-thought out system. We’ve been talking a lot about teaching kids the art of reciprocity in conversation. Many kids are so excited about games that they can turn any conversation into a conversation about what Mario or Luigi are doing lately. We want to teach them something different…for their sake and ours. Rather than simply ignoring or enduring the endless video game chatter, why not use it? “John, you get to talk about Super Mario Brothers for five minutes and you can tell me anything you want. But then you are going to ask Mommy questions about her day and something she’s excited about for five minutes.”
And here’s another tactic with the endless questions about more time. He’s potentially asking out of boredom or even nervousness about something in his day…kids often go back, in their minds, to their safest subjects when they’re feeling anxious over something they have to do, or even just time that’s unstructured. You could create a jar of items that get him moving in a different direction. You could call it the “I’m Bored” jar…or “Creative Concoctions” jar or anything you and he come up with together. Then, do a little research and come up with as many ideas as you can…throwing the ball with the dog, writing a story and drawing a picture of a child his age living on another planet, coloring, jumping on a mini tramp in the garage…you get the idea. Basically, you want to come up with activities he can do that engage his brain and body in ways that are physical and/or creative. Because he’s got some control (by drawing a piece of paper out of the jar), he’ll be more engaged in the task. You’ve got the added bonus of more time away from video games—and he has a built-in (and even fun) consequence for endless begging for more time.
Mostly, we’re so grateful for you and other parents who are trying to live and raise balanced kids in the midst of our tech-savvy and tech-saturated age. Stay with us weekly for more tips as we continue to walk this important and challenging road together…